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Chicxulub crater - focus for ocean drilling plans
The News - Science-Astronomy
April 05, 2011
chicxulub asteroid crater drilling

A plan to study the Chicxulub crater by boring 1.5km into the sea bed is among the highlights of ocean drilling projects proposed for the next decade.

Chicxulub, in Mexico, was carved out by the asteroid strike that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) also plans expeditions to study earthquakes and ancient climate, and says the need is greater than ever.

Another long-term aim is to penetrate the Earth's mantle for the first time.  IOPD scientists were outlining their plans at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) annual meeting in Vienna. However, they cautioned that funding needs to be secured for the next generation of expeditions. [ BBC NEWS ]

 
More than 1 in 10 nuclear plants at risk from earthquakes / tsunamis
The News - Natural Disasters
April 02, 2011
nuclear plant earthquake tsunami disaster risk

Scores of nuclear power plants worldwide are at risk from tsunamis or earthquakes similar to the natural disasters that weakened Japan's Fukushima reactors, according to new research. Many at-risk plants are in countries less prepared to cope with a disaster than Japan.

Seventy-six operating power stations in Japan, Taiwan, China, South Korea, India, Pakistan and the US are located in areas close to coastlines deemed vulnerable to tsunamis.

Of 442 nuclear power stations globally, more than one in 10 are situated in places deemed to be at high or extreme risk of earthquakes – in Japan, the US, Taiwan, Armenia and Slovenia – according to a new study by the analysts Maplecroft.

Helen Hodge, Maplecroft's natural hazards analyst, said: "Although Japanese nuclear facilities are particularly exposed, other countries could also face similar risks. South Korea, Taiwan, southern China, India, Pakistan and the west coast of the US have operating or planned nuclear facilities on tsunami-exposed coastlines, while nuclear sites in areas of high or extreme risk of earthquakes can be found in western US, Taiwan, Armenia, Iran and Slovenia."

 
1,000 bodies discovered in Ivory Coast massacre
The News - War-Draft
April 02, 2011
ivroy coast massacre 1000 bodies

The single biggest atrocity in the long battle for control of Ivory Coast has emerged after aid workers discovered the bodies of up to 1,000 people in the town of Duekoue.

Charity workers who reached Duekoue said it appeared the killings had taken place in a single day, shortly after the town fell to troops loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the man internationally-recognised as having won last year’s presidential election.

The apparent massacre came despite the presence of United Nations troops and - if confirmed - will cast a shadow over Mr Outtara’s assumption of the Ivory Coast’s presidency after a four-month battle to oust Lawrence Gbagbo, the former president who lost the November election but refused to step down.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said he was “gravely concerned” by the violence and loss of life in Ivory Coast and added: “I am determined that all alleged human rights abuses... must be investigated and those responsible held to account. The International Committee for the Red Cross said its staff discovered more than 800 bodies of people who were clearly local civilians. They were mainly men who had been shot and left where they fell, the organisation said, either alone or in small groups dotted around the town, which lies at the heart of Ivory Coast’s economically crucial cocoa producing region. [ TELEGRAPH ]

 
Meteors : Mysterious Fireball Season Set to Light Up Night Sky
The News - Science-Astronomy
April 02, 2011
meteor fireball spring shower

Spring has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that birds are chirping, flowers are blooming - and fireballs are lighting up the sky, NASA says.

For some mysterious reason, the number of fireballs - dramatic meteors that blaze brighter than any planet when they burn up in Earth's atmosphere - peaks at this time of year.

"Spring is fireball season," said Bill Cooke, of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Center, in a statement. "For reasons we don't fully understand, the rate of bright meteors climbs during the weeks around the vernal equinox."

Most of the year, a person gazing skyward from dusk to dawn can expect to see about 10 random — or "sporadic" — fireballs, researchers said. These bright shooting stars result when space rocks — fragments of broken asteroids and decaying comets — plow into Earth's atmosphere.

But in spring, the number of sporadic fireballs climbs by 10 to 30 percent. [ YAHOO ]

 
Floods, earthquakes, landslides - 2011 is a year of disasters
The News - Natural Disasters
April 02, 2011
natural disasters 2011 floods tsunamis earthquakes landslides

Floods , earthquakes , landslides , tsunamis - 2011 is a year of natural disasters . Bill McKibben asks: are we to blame? Plus, survivors tell their tales.

At least since Noah, and likely long before, we've stared in horror at catastrophe and tried to suss out deeper meaning – it was but weeks ago that the Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, declared that the earthquake/tsunami/ reactor tripleheader was "divine punishment" for excess consumerism. This line of reasoning usually fails to persuade these days (why are Las Vegas and Dubai unscathed by anything except the housing meltdown?) but it's persistent. We need some explanation for why our stable world is suddenly cracked in half or under water. Still, over time we've become less superstitious, since science can explain these cataclysms. Angry gods or plate tectonics? We're definitely moving towards natural explanation of crises.

Which is odd, because the physical world is moving in the other direction.

The Holocene – the 10,000 years through which we have just come – was by all accounts a period of calm and stability on Earth. Temperatures and sea levels were relatively stable. Hence it was an excellent time to build a civilisation, especially the modern kind that comes with lots of stuff: roads, buildings, container ports, nuclear reactors. Yes, we had disasters throughout those millennia, some of them (Krakatoa, say) simply enormous. Hurricanes blew, earthquakes rocked. But they were, by definition, rare, taking us by surprise – freaks, outliers, traumas that persisted in our collective history precisely because they were so unusual. [ GUARDIAN ]

 
Reactor Core Was Severely Damaged - disaster may be '100 year battle'
The News - Current Events
April 01, 2011
japan nuclear meltdown tsunami earthquake disaster

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Friday that roughly 70 percent of the core of one reactor at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had suffered severe damage.

His assessment of the damage to Reactor No. 1 was the most specific yet from an American official on how close the plant came to a full meltdown after it was hit by a severe earthquake and massive tsunami on March 11.

Japanese officials have spoken of “partial meltdown” at some of the stricken reactors. But they have been less than specific, especially on the question of how close No. 1 — the most badly damaged reactor — came to a full meltdown.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Hi-Res Photos - Badly Damaged

fukushima daiichi nuclear plant meltown disaster damage

fukushima nuclear damage plant disaster meltdown

Crews 'facing 100-year battle' at Fukushima

A nuclear expert has warned that it might be 100 years before melting fuel rods can be safely removed from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.

The warning came as levels of radioactive iodine flushed into the sea near the plant spiked to a new high and the Wall Street Journal said it had obtained disaster response blueprints which said the plant's operators were woefully unprepared for the scale of the disaster.

Water is still being poured into the damaged reactors to cool melting fuel rods. But one expert says the radiation leaks will be ongoing and it could take 50 to 100 years before the nuclear fuel rods have completely cooled and been removed.

 
800 die in Ivory Coast ethnic violence
The News - War-Draft
April 01, 2011
800 die ivory coast ethnic violence

At least 800 people have been killed in the western Ivory Coast city of Duekoue this week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.

They died in inter-communal violence in one district of the city, it added.

The head of the ICRC delegation in the country said the event was particularly shocking in its scale and brutality. Fighting has continued in Abidjan between forces loyal to the UN-recognised president Alassane Ouattara and the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo.

Mr Ouattara was internationally recognised as president last year after the electoral commission declared him the winner of a November run-off vote, but Mr Gbagbo also claimed victory and refused to leave office. [ BBC NEWS ]

 
U.S. government microwave mind-control tests?
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
April 01, 2011

A bizarre spate of television presenters dissolving into on-air gibberish has sparked claims that the U.S. military could be to blame. Are U.S. government microwave mind-control tests causing TV presenters' brains to melt down?

In four high-profile cases, the latest involving fast-talking Judge Judy, the presenters have started off speaking properly but have then descended into undecipherable nonsense - looking confused and unstable. 

The frequency of the 'attacks' - and the fact that recorded examples of the mental meltdowns have been popular on websites - has led to conspiracy theorists pointing the finger at shadowy government experiments.

 
Apocalypse Now? Japan...
The News - Natural Disasters
April 01, 2011
apocalypse now japan disaster nuclear earthquake tsunami
The ultimate disaster scenario would see the Tokyo region heavily contaminated by radioactivity following an explosion and radioactive fallout at the Fukushima plant. Such a situation would lead to the creation of an exclusion zone affecting thirty million inhabitants of a city that is at the heart of the flow of global basic necessities. Tokyo is one of the world’s major financial centers, one of the three management hubs of the foreign exchange markets (along with London and New York) and the Japanese economy supplies a quantity of electronic components vital to the global economy.

This morning on ABC News we read that a nuclear expert has warned that it might be 100 years before melting fuel rods can be safely removed from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.“As the water leaks out, you keep on pouring water in, so this leak will go on forever,” said Dr. John Price, a former member of the Safety Policy Unit at the UK’s National Nuclear Corporation. “The final thing is that the reactors will have to be closed and the fuel removed, and that is 50 to 100 years away.”

Levels of the radioactive isotope iodine 131 have continued to rise, testing at 4,385 times the statutory limit on March 31st, nearly four times higher than on Sunday, March27th, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
 
Doomsday nuclear bunker sales up1000% after Japan Earthquake & Tsunami
The News - Current Events
April 01, 2011
doomsday bunker nuclear disaster earthquake

Reservations for a doomsday bunker in the U.S. have sky rocketed since Japan's catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

The 137,000sq ft bunker - designed to house 950 people for a year and withstand a 50 megaton blast - is currently being built under the grasslands of Nebraska.

Vivos, the California-based company behind it, is taking $5,000 (£3,100) deposits, which will have to be topped up to $25,000 (£15,600) to secure a place. It says applications have soared 1000 per cent in the wake of the disasters in Japan. And the bunkers will be kitted out with all the modern conveniences the American consumer has come to expect.

Once finished the complex will feature four levels of residential suites, a dental and medical center, kitchens, pet kennels, a bakery, a prayer room, a fully stocked wine cellar and even a prison to detain any misbehaving residents.

 
Millions of sites hit with mass-injection cyber attack
The News - Current Events
April 01, 2011
Hundreds of thousands -- and possibly millions -- of websites have been hit with a cyberattack that some are calling "one of the biggest mass-injection attacks we've ever seen."

The attack was discovered on March 29 by security firm WebSense, and the injected domain was called lizamoon.com -- thus, the name of the mass-injection is "LizaMoon." According to WebSense, LizaMoon uses SQL Injection to add malicious script to compromised sites. While the first injected domain was lizamoon.com, additional URLs have since been injected in the attack (WebSense has a full list here).

The method of using an injected script redirects users to a rogue AV site, which tries to get people to install a fake anti-virus program called Windows Stability Center. [ COMPUTER WORLD ]

 
Ancient Ocean 'Dead Zone' Delayed Life After Mass Extinction
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 31, 2011
ocean dead zone disaster

A flood of nutrients may have created an oxygen-starved ocean about 250 million years ago, preventing life from bouncing back for a few million years after a mass extinction wiped out 90 percent of marine species, a new study indicates.

The enriched, yet oxygen-starved ocean would have been similar to today's dead zones that appear in the modern ocean often as a result of agricultural runoff, as in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Permian-Triassic extinction, which hit about 250 million years ago, is believed to have been the result of widespread volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia, which poured carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Although the dates are inexact so far, it seems that life took an unusually long time to recover — possibly as much as 5 million years. [ Oceans in Peril: Primed for Mass Extinction? ] - [ LIVE SCIENCE ]

 
8 Ways Monsanto is destroying our health
The News - Climate-Environment
March 31, 2011
monsanto destroying health gm food

Lots of talk these days about the bullying of young boys and girls in school by more aggressive students. This brings to my mind the biggest bully of all: the biotech company, Monsanto Corporation.

Taken in context, Monsanto’s list of corporate crimes should have been enough to pull their corporate charter years ago. And yet we allow them to continue to destroy our food supply, our health and the planet. Monsanto or Monsatan?

Take a look at the company’s track record and decide for yourself.

 
Japan Crisis overview & updates
The News - Current Events
March 31, 2011
fukushima plant japan crisis disaster earthquake tsunami disaster
  • Police, rescue workers and family members could be exposed to radiation
  • Mother of 'Fukushima 50' member says they expect to die
  • Radioactivity levels in the ocean 4,385 times above regulatory limit
  • Ground water levels are 10,000 times the Government health standard
  • Fisherman warned not to operate within 12 miles of plant
  • Compensation claims could top $12bn
  • Power firm's shares lose 80% of value - may need government bailout
  • President still recovering in hospital recovering from 'fatigue and stress'
  • U.S. sends specialist Marine unit to assist in decontamination
  • Traces of radioactive particles found in U.S. milk

Up to 1,000 bodies of victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami have not been collected because of fears of high levels of radiation.

Police sources said bodies within the 12-mile evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been 'exposed to high levels of radiation after death'.

It follows the discovery of a body on Sunday in Okuma, just three miles from the power plant, which revealed elevated levels of radiation. [ DAILY MAIL UK ]

 
NASA Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 31, 2011
sun solar cycle spots peak 2012
Some researchers believe that the solar cycle influences global climate changes.  They attribute recent warming trends to cyclic variation.  Skeptics, though, argue that there's little hard evidence of a solar hand in recent climate changes.

Now, a new research report from a surprising source may help to lay this skepticism to rest.  A study from
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate
data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth's climate.  The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.

Past research has shown that the sun goes through eleven year cycles.  At the cycle's peak, solar activity occurring near sunspots is particularly intense, basking the Earth in solar heat.  According to Robert Cahalan, a climatologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, "Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene." [ DAILY TECH ]
 
Strong magnitude 6.4 earthquake strikes near Tonga
The News - Current Events
March 31, 2011
A strong magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck at sea northwest of Tonga in the South Pacific. There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage and no tsunami warning has been issued.

The U.S. Geological Survey says Thursday's quake was centered 272 miles (438 kilometers) northwest of the Tongan town of Neiafu at a depth of 14 miles (23 kilometers). Earthquakes are common in the South Pacific.

 
Mount Nyiragongo - One of the most dangerous volcanoes on Earth
The News - Natural Disasters
March 30, 2011
Mount Nyiragongo volcano deadly threat

Deadly volcano that's one of the most dangerous on Earth - but scientists can't predict when it will erupt because it's in the middle of a war zone.

Mount Nyiragongo is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world - and scientists say it is only a matter of time before it makes the city below a modern day Pompeii.

But they don't know when since, located as it is in the war-torn eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the two mile high cauldron of lava is also one of the least well understood.  At the base of Nyiragongo sprawls Goma, a city of an estimated one million people, numbers swelling by the day as villagers from the countryside seek refuge from rebel and government forces.

Twice in recent years Nyiragongo's eruptions have hit the city, destroying homes and sending residents fleeing. But now, seismologists believe, the risk is not just near the city, but directly beneath it.
 
Garden As If Your Life Depended On It, Because It Does
The News - Current Events
March 30, 2011
garden your life might depend on it

There are at least five reasons why more of us should take up the spade, make some compost, and start gardening with a vengeance.

Spring has sprung -- at least south of the northern tier of states where snow still has a ban on it -- and the grass has 'riz. And so has the price of most foods, which is particularly devastating just now when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, retired or retiring, on declining or fixed incomes and are having to choose between paying their mortgages, credit card bills, car payments, and medical and utility bills and eating enough and healthily. Many are eating more fast food, prepared foods, junk food -- all of which are also becoming more expensive -- or less food.

In some American towns, and not just impoverished backwaters, as many as 30 percent of residents can't afford to feed themselves and their families sufficiently, let alone nutritiously. Here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina where I live it's 25 percent. Across the country one out of six of the elderly suffers from malnutrition and hunger. And the number of children served one or two of their heartiest, healthiest meals by their schools grows annually as the number of them living at poverty levels tops 20 percent. Thirty-seven million Americans rely on food banks that now routinely sport half-empty shelves and report near-empty bank accounts. And this is a prosperous nation!

 
Starquakes Reveal Pulse of Giant Stars
The News - Science-Astronomy
March 30, 2011
starquake red giant star

Astronomers have taken the pulse of red giant stars by measuring their starquakes — stellar shivers that run so deep they can reach a star's core, scientists say.

These new findings can help scientists separate the vastly different types of red giants that would otherwise look virtually identical, which could help shed light on the future of our sun and the history of the galaxy.

Red giants are the swollen fate that awaits stars such as our own sun as they begin to exhaust their primary source of fuel, the hydrogen near their cores. The byproduct of the nuclear fusion that powers the sun — helium — accumulates over time, forcing hydrogen into a shell around the core that burns more vigorously than before.

Approximately 5 billion years from now, this will force our sun to swell to more than 100 times its current size, turning it into a red giant. After red giants age, they should, in principle, start burning the helium in their cores as well. However, although theoretical calculations predicted that this profound transformation should occur, scientists had never actually witnessed it, since the change would be largely invisible from the outside.
 
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